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Norwest Business Park businesses are suffering because of a lack of access to the NBN. Norwest Business Park businesses are suffering because of a lack of access to the NBN. Featured
11 March 2014 Posted by 

Where's the NBN? Lack of access hurting businesses

By Anthony Stavrinos

WESTERN Sydney business groups are concerned bad planning may prevent the National Broadband Network realising its potential, while small business is unnecessarily left to wear the costs of lost productivity.

They say a failure to address the broadband needs of economically significant estates, such as Norwest Business Park, has forced small businesses to persist with sub-standard internet connectivity longer than necessary.

"The NBN roll-out was a major talking point for members of the Sydney Hills Business Chamber and other local businesses at last year's Greater Western Sydney Small Business Summit which was held at Hillsong Convention Centre, Norwest,” Sydney Hills Business Chamber chairman Tony Eades told Western Sydney Business Access.

“Almost 12 months on and ironically it seems only Hillsong has the service available in our area other than a few select new residential developments, according to the Internode NBN Coverage Map.

“The Norwest Business Park at Bella Vista is home to many high profile multinational corporations including Woolworths and ResMed as well as thousands of growing SMEs, yet we struggle with slow or inconsistent internet speeds which impact on our local business productivity.”

Opposition Communications spokesman and federal member for Blaxland, Jason Clare, said the government had effectively killed off the NBN as it was originally intended.

“Before the election, the Liberal Party promised to build a second rate broadband network – a pale imitation of Labor's National Broadband Network by 2016,” Clare told Access.
In December last year they said they weren’t even going to do that, he added.

“The NBN is now effectively dead. The Liberal Party is not building a National Broadband Network,” Clare said.

“They are building a series of different networks with different speeds, different capacities and different technologies.

“The people of Western Sydney deserve better – they deserve Labor’s NBN. To get that, there needs to be a change of Government.”

Norwest tenants overlooked in the early stages of the roll-out won’t have access to NBN services until 2015, despite intense lobbying by Sydney Hills Business Chamber.

Compounding their problems, it appears, is a lack of political will to expedite a solution.

During the GWS Small Business Summit, last August, federal MP for Mitchell, Alex Hawke, led the charge on the issue of the NBN roll-out needing to prioritise the connectivity needs of business precincts over residential areas.

Since then, of course, his party has been elected to government and when Access sought Hawke’s comments on the NBN roll-out delay for Norwest, he was too busy with his parliamentary commitments to offer a formal response through his press secretary.

In any case, Hawke is an outspoken opponent of the NBN, describing it as “an expensive, short-sighted project that will be outdated before it’s even completed”.

On his website, he has even spruiked the asbestos-related health and safety dangers of the roll-out and in May, 2012, offered up this as a poll question: “Do You Think Spending $37 Billion On The NBN Is A Good Use Of Money When Most Suburbs Of Mitchell, Including Norwest Business Park, Miss Out?”

Journalist and blogger Peter  Wicks (wixxyleaks.com) in a post titled “Gutless – Alex Hawke MP the lies, the backflips and the hypocrisy” notes that while constituents in Michelle

Rowland’s seat of Greenway watched the roll-out of the NBN, those in Hawke’s neighbouring seat with businesses at  Norwest Business Park wondered why they missed out.

“The reason they were missing out is because their voice (Hawke) chose to take political pot shots rather than look after his constituents interests,” Wicks wrote.

“Alex spoke out against the NBN many times, and then when it started rolling out on the other side of Windsor Rd started crying like a baby that has lost its dummy.

“You cannot have it both ways Alex. You cannot argue against something, say it is no good, vote against it, and then complain you aren’t getting it first.”

The Abbott Government’s determination to put its own stamp on the delivery of the NBN has already prompted accusations by Labor’s federal MP for Parramatta, Julie Owens, that Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull broke election promises by booting 500,000 potential NBN users from the roll-out map last November.

“(Prime Minister) Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have pulled the plug on Western Sydney receiving fibre-to-the-home broadband services,” Ms Owens said at the time.

“Despite election promises by Malcolm Turnbull that existing NBN contracts would be honoured by an Abbott Government.

“Under Labor, parts of Blacktown, Prospect and Auburn were scheduled to receive fibre connections in the coming months.”

The federal government wasted no time after it was elected last year, initiating a strategic review of the NBN and its governance, then a cost-benefit analysis and review of regulation of the NBN, signalling it intended to make some changes in the project’s delivery.

Last month, Turnbull released the Broadband availability and quality report and launched the MyBroadband website, which covers more than 78,000 local areas across Australia, showing what types of broadband are available—wireless, HFC, fibre to the premises, ADSL etc—and the quality of each.

“It gives an estimate as to what types of speeds people will get. It shows graphically where broadband is good—and in some places it is very, very good—and it shows where it is really bad,” Turnbull told federal parliament during question time.

“There are 1.6 million premises in Australia where there is either no broadband at all or broadband with medium peak speeds of 4.8 megabits or less per second, which is today unacceptably slow.”

He said it would have been a lot easier if the previous government had done this from the outset and not left the NBN in a mess.

“What we are now going to do is to prioritise the worst served areas so that people with poor broadband get it upgraded sooner,” he said.

“The recent strategic review of the NBN estimated that underserved areas can be upgraded on average two years sooner if they are prioritised in the rollout as we are proposing.”

Turnbull said the coalition could be counted on to deliver Australians access to very fast broadband sooner, cheaper and more affordably.

The final word on the NBN goes to Eades, who urged planning of digital infrastructure to align more closely with the needs of small business.

“We need a national digital infrastructure that is focused on business as it is small business that provides the backbone of our economy,” Eades said.

“We need the NBN today so we can really get on with business."


Michael Walls
0407 783 413

Western Sydney Business Access (WSBA) covers the business and community issues of the Greater Western Sydney region of Australia. WSBA is the popular media source for connecting with the pulse of the region and tapping into it's vast opportunities and networks.